The eponymous March Rose is once again blooming. Each time that I see this profuse, perennial shrub breakout in her glorious golden-blooms, I am reminded of the glory of God appearing through the generations and the spread of the gospel as His people are, likewise, “planted” throughout the world. I will tell you why I think this way.
The March Rose that you see depicted in this photograph has a very rich heritage, indeed. This March Rose bush was taken from a cutting from my late Aunt Georgia’s beautiful Southern-Living-like-backyard-garden (on the corner of Sherwood and Goodwood, in Baton Rouge) some 30 years ago. Aunt Georgia had taken the cutting from her mother’s garden — my grandmother — perhaps, some 60 to 70 years ago (in Milton Old Field, now, Walker, Louisiana). My grandmother planted this in her yard in the 1870s. Now, I cannot tell you if she took the cutting from her mother-in-law, Francis Vining Milton, or if my great Grandmother took the cutting from her mother-in-law, Mrs. Martha Milton, and from her mother-in-law, Mrs. Mary Milton, born in a Guilford County, North Carolina; but it is altogether possible. Our humble Milton family has been in the New World since 1621. But even if the latter part of the story is mythology the former part of the story is indisputable fact. More relevantly, my wife and I have transplanted the March Rose wherever we have been “stationed” in our ministerial vocation. We took the rose with us to Olathe, Kansas and to another home in Overland Park, Kansas. We took a cutting from our March Rose there, and replanted it in South Florida, during our seminary years. Later, we transplanted the Bush once again to Skidaway Island, Georgia. When called to pastor First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, Mae and I brought another cutting of that well-traveled (and by then increasingly ubiquitous) March Rose to Signal Mountain, Tennessee. There is a very large March Rose bush that continues to bloom on that majestic mountain to this day ( I doubt the present owners of our former home recognize the historical value of the magnificent bloomer in their yard this spring; nor should they, I suppose). And, then, over a decade ago, we carried a cutting of the March Rose to our home here in Union County, North Carolina. It is interesting to ponder that the cutting might have — might have — originated in North Carolina when five generations ago the Milton family took advantage of a veteran’s land grant from the War of 1812, and settled in the Mississippi territory, part of which became the Eastern Louisiana where I was first “planted.” As I look at her this morning, showing off her abundance of tinty butter-yellow flowers in our Carolina garden, I have to wonder: “Have we really just brought the March Rose back home?” But then again, the March Rose likely originated in Oxfordshire, England, where our family came from when Thomas Milton caught the ship named “Supply.” Did he bring a cutting of the March Rose when he traversed the North Atlantic to land at Jamestown?
Okay. I’m stretching just a bit. Alright, maybe even more than “just a bit.”
What is more important, really, than the lineage of this March Rose is the story of God’s faithfulness through the generations. The Psalmist took a cutting of truth and planted it in the sacred repository we call the Bible:
“For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5 ESV).
How is this so? Well, quite similar to the story of our ancient March Rose, growing so vigorously, we, too, take a “cutting” of faith from believing parents — a covenantal blessing — and it is replanted and, if nurtured in Word, Sacrament, and Prayer—grows in the God-tended garden of our own lives. Moreover, wherever the Lord leads us in this life, we are able to reestablish that March-Rose-like-faith. How? Well, we just take a “cutting” of grace from our own lives, wrap it carefully in the damp cloth of our own testimonies, and share it with another. By grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9) the life of Jesus Christ is planted in the garden of others’ lives. So often, the faith of the “March Rose covenant” is passed down through the generations.
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9 NIV).
Thus, the world is becoming a profuse flowering garden of spring, buttercream sunbeams, a perennially blooming faith in our God and Savior Jesus Christ. The “March Rose cutting” of saving faith will be shared all over the world until the blessed Husbandman, our Lord Jesus Christ, comes again. I couldn’t help but pray:
“What pretty yellow blooms. Thank you, Father, for Thy beauty shown forth so wondrously in the heirloom garden of Thy creation.”
Now, this is what I thought of this morning as I looked at our blooming March rose. This is what I wanted to share with you.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.